Rory McIlroy entered the PGA Tour Championship in third place at 7-under par thanks to the PGA Tour season finale’s unique scoring system. As a result, the red-hot McIlroy was a popular bet to win the event.
Shortly before McIlroy teed off Thursday, news came out that the four-time major champion was dealing with a back injury and had barely practiced all week. While McIlroy gutted through the tournament — he finished in fourth place, 13 shots behind champion Viktor Hovland — he clearly didn’t have his best stuff.
“I can’t swing my irons the way I want to,” McIlroy told the press Friday. “I can’t turn my right side through the ball. So from the top of the swing I’m just sort of throwing my arms at it and it’s a lot of face rotation and I can only really hit it one way with the irons. I can’t hit the driver the way I usually do. Like, teeing it up I’m teeing it down and just hitting a sort of flat little runner down there. So, yeah, look, a little limited to the shots that I can hit, but I’m getting by.”
For bettors, McIlroy playing at less than 100% was a nightmare scenario.
“Honestly, it is a worst-case scenario for him to go out and just struggle through it, because at least with a withdrawal, bettors get their wager back,” Chris Murphy, a golf writer with the Action Network, told Sports Handle.
No injury report?
Frustrated bettors immediately started questioning why the PGA Tour doesn’t have an injury report like other major professional sports leagues.
Injury reporting on the PGA Tour is a bit more complicated, as players are considered independent contractors. Injuries are viewed as private medical information between players and their respective doctors.
The PGA Tour didn’t comment on the record about future injury reporting, but the topic could be considered as the tour evolves.
Frustration from bettors comes in part because the PGA Tour leans heavily into sports wagering as a way to engage fans. The PGA Tour’s website includes live odds on its leaderboard, and a section of the website (Golfbet) focuses entirely on betting content and analysis.
“This is really where things get tough for the tour, as it seems now they have a bit more of an obligation to disclose things that are impactful to their tournaments and the betting markets,” Murphy said. “The information being out there just keeps the playing field level. Whether or not it pushes someone onto or off of the golfer is ultimately up to the gambler, but what most people want is just the information to allow them to do with it what they wish. Ultimately, I think they have some sort of obligation in this.”
Where was the media?
While sharing personal health information is a complicated topic for the PGA Tour, it doesn’t explain how the golf media didn’t get any whiff of McIlroy’s injury until after players began teeing off on Thursday. According to reports, McIlroy didn’t hit range balls Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday as he dealt with the back injury.
In the PGA Tour’s season finale, it’s surprising that no media members reported on the No. 2 player in the world not hitting balls all week on the practice range. Discussions surrounding his injury only surfaced Thursday, as he warmed up for his round in obvious pain.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 24, 2023
“It is hard to believe that no one noticed that the most high-profile player in the world didn’t take a single swing on the grounds on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday,” Murphy said. “This also isn’t a typical event where there are 155 players that can get lost in the shuffle if we miss one, as just 30 of the top players in the world tee it up [last] week and McIlroy is the most recognizable of that entire bunch.”
It went unexplained how every member of the press missed — or didn’t disclose — McIlroy’s limited physical state.
Sadly for bettors, there doesn’t appear to be a fix on the immediate horizon to the betting impact caused by unannounced injuries, especially if on-site media members don’t pick up on a player’s limitations.